Fear of failure is common. Usually, it masks a fear of how we perceive failure and what it says about us. Here are 5 reasons failure isn’t so bad.
A lot of us are willing to settle for a job that bores us to death, or stay in a relationship that’s clearly not working, because we are too scared to pursue the things we want. A long time ago, when we were children, we weren’t like this—at all. We used to be Super Girls and Super Boys—optimistic and full of sunshine!
But then we experienced failure and found out that getting what we want is not so easy, after all. Our long list of failures has taught us to retreat into our shells and “grow up.” We just can’t take one more disappointment. We’d rather accept the cards we’re dealt and say, “Welp, that’s life!” than go after the person we adore, the job that makes us feel fulfilled, or the lifestyle we’ve always wanted. We are now “wise” enough not to invest money, time, and emotions, only to disappoint ourselves once again. We’ve been there, we’ve done that, and it sucks.
Failure is not your enemy
But you know what sucks more than failure? Trying to convince yourself every single day that you are satisfied with your life. What sucks more than failure is knowing that you can change the course of your life… but you choose not to. What sucks more than failure is your 60-year-old self blaming your younger self for being such a wimp.
#1 Failing doesn’t make you a failure. This is pretty basic, but some of us find it hard to separate ourselves from our failures or successes. We take everything personally! Those who achieve success think highly of themselves, and those who are still in the failure stage think they have character flaws. Both are dangerous. When something doesn’t go as planned, we blame ourselves until our self-esteem has shrunken to the size of a pea. It’s alright to assess, it’s alright—even necessary—to acknowledge mistakes, but please be gentle with yourself.
Sure, the project failed, or sure the love of your life rejected you, or your book didn’t turn out to be a bestseller. It doesn’t make you a failure! Come to think of it, those attempts are not even failures; you’re in the process of getting what you want. Seeing setbacks as failures and seeing yourself as a failure are not helping. [Read: A helpful reflection – What am I doing with my life?]
#2 Failure prepares you for success. Failure builds character. At the very least, it prepares you to become humble and compassionate to others. People who succeed on the first attempt may develop detestable qualities—unless, of course, they are born with innate kindness. As cliché as it sounds, failure is the most effective teacher. Failure molds us to be resourceful, quick-thinking, more patient with ourselves and others, and instills a thousand other career and life skills necessary for achieving the kind of life that we want.
People who get what they want right away will definitely have a tough time the next time something doesn’t go according to plan; those of us who have learned the hard way will be well-equipped to handle whatever life throws at us. On a practical level, failure also teaches us what works best and what doesn’t, so that the next time we try, the likelihood of us getting things right is higher.
#3 Failure is part of the process. Let me ask you this: what makes you think you should achieve what you want on the first attempt? Sure, you tried very hard and you gave it all you had, but who gave you the idea that you should nail it on the first try, just because you tried hard? Is it the movies we watch or the books we read?
If you asked real people, they’d tell you that getting there is never easy and requires big risks. One example is Colonel Sanders, the wizard behind KFC’s delicious chicken recipe. He approached more than a thousand restaurants before someone said yes. If he stopped on the 999th attempt, there would have been no KFC today. Bill Gates, before he founded Microsoft, started a company that failed miserably. If he packed his bags and said “That’s enough failure for me,” there would have been no Microsoft. You see? Failure is just one step in our long journey to success. If you have the right amount of courage and the right attitude, failures will serve as guideposts to your success. [Read: Sabotaging your happiness – 12 ways you’re ruining your own life]
#4 Failure makes you reassess everything about your life. Which is always a good thing… if you have the right mindset. Failure makes you sit back and talk to yourself, asking why things didn’t go as planned. It also makes you assess yourself *Who am I? What are my skills? Where did I go wrong? What skills should I develop?*, assess your peers *Is he the right partner for this kind of endeavor?*, assess your relationships, assess your expectations, assess your plans, and assess your other options.
These moments, wherein you dig deep and force yourself to think hard, are precious for your growth. These moments are more precious than gold. As adults, we live our lives at dizzying speed, so we have no time to think anymore. Failure forces us to think and zoom out from our daily grind, so we can plot our next move.
#5 Failure is better than nothing. For some of us, it’s better to stay in the safe zone than lose a lot of energy, embarrass ourselves, and find out for the nth time that we’ve failed. We’d rather not find out, because our egos can’t take it. For some, doing nothing is better than failure.
Well, guess what—the person who keeps trying is not a failure. In fact, people who give up are the failures. Giving up means curling in bed instead of hustling, stalking people on Facebook instead of approaching them in real life, and staying stuck in a routine you are clearly not happy with. Trying to achieve what you want, even if you failed at it a hundred times, is bad ass. Why? Your life is more exciting, colorful, emotional, scary, heartbreaking, and worth living than those who stick to nothing.
Most, if not all, successful people failed a lot before they achieved success, and that is because they had a healthy view of failure. They don’t take things personally, but use the lessons from their failures to push them forward.
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